Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is a currently a 50 billion dollar industry, and growing. With that kind of revenue potential the number of new systems joining the mix grows daily. When Larmahil started in 2016 we estimated that there were over 400 unique platforms to choose from, when you factor in all of the specialized platforms (dealer socket is an example of CRM solutions specialized for the auto-industry) as well as the crossover marketing platforms which now offer basic CRM capability, the number of options available to choose from is now in the thousands.
We asked ourselves "what do all of these CRM's have in common?" and came up with this list of core basic CRM features.
The contact record is the hub of your customer database. This is where all information relating to an individual contact may be found. Contacts can include leads, customers, vendors, suppliers, industry connections, employees, and any other person related to your business.
All platforms now offer the ability to automate the lead generation process. Data entry is a time consuming task, and the ability to allow new contacts to add themselves to your database through internet based forms became a vital feature in all CRM's. Capturing a new lead will vary from system to system, but they all rely on a having a web form either on your website or hosted on a landing page, social media platforms like facebook are now allowing lead generation forms to be added to pages.
Also known as company records, account management is a way of segmenting contacts by their affiliated companies. Much of the information stored in the company record will compliment the information stored in the contact records.
Deals and Forecasting
Deals and sales forecasting features may be called something different in your CRM, perhaps its the pipeline, or the funnel. All CRM platforms will have some way to associate a contact record or company, with your sales process. Having this information available at a glance is supposed to help you prioritize your leads based on where they are in there lifecycle stage. Alerting you of bottle necks or helping identify redundancies in your sales cycle are the additional benefits of the deals and forecasting features of your CRM.
Calendar and Tasks
Thanks to CRM technology the paper day planners of old are quickly becoming obsolete. Combining your contact records with the digital calendar on your phone or mobile device is a great way to keep track of appointments, set reminders, and prevent being double booked or late to a meeting. The ability to assign tasks to you and your team, and set reminders with those tasks, is another organizational feature of all CRM systems.
If you find yourself writing the same emails to prospects, clients, and business contacts, you may want to explore the email templating features in your CRM. With the ability to integrate your contacts data with your email templates you can save a lot of time and reduce the redundancy of emailing. As an added bonus, some CRM systems like Zoho will allow your to bulk deliver templated emails to a large group of contacts.
Custom Fields & Custom Workflows
The ability to customize your CRM to fit your business process is an essential component of CRM technology. What good is a contact database if you can't store vital contact information for your business. Create workflows to help your team understand your systems and process while integrating contact data into your workflows. Every business is unique, and CRM providers understand that they can not be everything to everybody, even though they would like to be, the ability to customize your workflows and data goes a long way achieving that goal.
In order to properly service your business needs all CRM systems will offer some form of customization. This is going to vary greatly between platforms, so be sure to shop around or reach out to a CRM consultant to select the right CRM for your business.